Support - Women Orishas Play

When I was sixteen years old, a theater director chose me to play the main role in a play called "Virginia and the Orishas." A play about a young black girl asking the African gods of the Cuban-Yoruba pantheon, the Orishas, to make her white. This bitter experience motivated endless reflections about race and identity that I have developed and shared in research, educational programs and performances in Cuba and the United States for the last twenty years. Through sharing my experiences and findings in this complex topic of race and identity I am determined to continue to reach people and help bring new light, new ideas and new views about who we are, where do we come from and what it means to be human beyond the narrow confines of societal norms.

A year ago the LGBT community leader and activist Celiany Rivera, helped me to conceive the first workshop on Women Orishasthat delved beyond just the music and dance to explore the real essences of the powerful female archetypes. The workshop combined intellectual ideas, physical movement, and spiritual insight, helping people connect beyond gender, race and religious practices to the core universal concepts of life and death that women in the Yoruba pantheon represent, and how those ideas are expressed in dance and music. This project has been presented in different formats in the Open Center, NY and Mary Washington University, VA.

The Women Orishas theater play is a natural step on this enlightening road, that also closes full circle, the Virginia experience. In this piece, Yemaya, Oshun, and Oya, archetypes of femininity, engage in dialogue with women in the present time. They will share their stories, contrasting the conditions of transcendence of women in the past and in the present. The play will also explore different perspectives on motherhood, love and passion, and what affirms womanhood beyond time.

This fundraiser will pay for research and training, a minimum staff of choreographers and scenic directors, set ,staging, costumes, rehearsal space, and living expenses I while I log in the hours this summer putting everything together. I plan to document interviews with researchers and religious practitioners in Cuba and the United States, engaging their voices, allowing this piece to be, as much as possible, a collective creation.


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Yesenia Selier 
West New York, NJ
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